Last week Google launched a new Google Maps feature called Place Pages. The purpose of these pages is to include as much information about places (which can be businesses or cities) in one spot. So for example (the example Google used upon announcement), if I search for “Burdick Chocolate Cafe” on Google Maps, and I go to the more info link for its listing (it’s a place in Cambridge, MA), I will get reviews, photos, the map listing, directions, street view, and more.
Google says it is working on including one of these pages for all businesses. Businesses can submit specific categories they want to include in their own listings, which can be claimed through Google’s Local Business Center.
As I wrote in a recent WebProNews article, there is a bit of controversy surrounding these pages. For one, they may show up in natural search listings in regular Google web searches, meaning they could potentially become more attractive options for searchers to click on than the business’ site itself. Secondly, the pages have sponsored ads on them, and some are concerned that they could end up showing ads for competitors.
Based on the comments we received at WebProNews, the reactions from small business owners over the pages have been quite mixed. Some feel that Google is invading their turf by making it less of a necessity for users to visit their own sites, while others think it is a very positive thing and expect that it could help small business owners by getting potential customers the information they need, which could eventually lead to sales.
There are certainly valid points to both sides of the argument, and it’s probably not so black and white. Some businesses will no doubt benefit from these pages, and others will not. One thing is for sure – you don’t want to ignore them.
Right now, you should not expect to see these pages taking over your rankings in Google, although as demonstrated by the chocolate cafe example, they may appear in natural search results, but they are instantly accessible (for many businesses already) via Google Maps, which means they are out there for customers to find. You need to make sure you claim your listing and do what you can to make sure it has the information on it that you want it to.
The pages can include user-generated content, and that means this adds a new element to the management of your online reputation. If someone is leaving negative reviews and feedback pertaining to your business, and it is showing up on your page, it’s not going to be good for business.